Pictured: Kenyan village to receive GiveDirectly’s guaranteed basic income Source: Nichole Sibecki for NPR
GiveDirectly offers to give every adult in a Kenyan village a guaranteed basic income of 27,258 Kenyan Shillings- or 264 US dollars- per year for the next 12 years without any conditions. Providing unconditional cash transfers directly to people has proven to increase economic outcomes and psychological well-being.
GiveDirectly, a US-based nonprofit, is challenging the traditional structure of international aid by shifting the power dynamics between donors and people who receive aid. In our current structure, donors decide what people receive since most aid provided by governments, nonprofits and individuals is given as an in-kind donation. Instead, the purpose of GiveDirectly’s donation structure is to trust the expertise of people experiencing poverty to choose how best to spend the money. GiveDirectly will be measuring the long-term outcomes.
According to the first part in an NPR series on emerging aid models to redress global poverty, GiveDirectly will provide every adult in a village in Kenya a guaranteed basic income of 2,271.50 Kenyan shillings per month, or 22 US dollars for the next 12 years. Typically, adults live on less than 206.50 Kenyan Shillings per day, or 2 US dollars. For two-parent households, this donation boosts their monthly income by 50 percent. The money is wired to a bank account connected to each villager’s phone. Some families have used this additional income to better support household nutrition and education outcomes for children. The US-based nonprofit plans to expand the guaranteed income to 200 villages in Fall 2017 and assess the long-term impacts by comparing the outcomes with 100 villages that do not receive the payments.
Already, a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics discovered how, in Kenya, unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) have a significant impact on economic outcomes and psychological well-being in communities. UCTs contribute to local economic development by increasing consumption rates. They also improve social and emotional development in communities that heavily rely on social networks for supports and services that may otherwise be inaccessible.
Research from Canada’s Mowat Centre also shows that providing money with no strings attached can help support social entrepreneurs that may be experiencing financial hardship to get their ventures off the ground. For example, one Kenyan family that is a beneficiary of GiveDirectly’s donation, is focused on investing in an entrepreneurial venture to grow a forest of eucalyptus trees and sell the fuel from the plants. Profits from the family’s venture would be used to fund high school tuition for four children as an investment in breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
In contrast to GiveDirectly’s aid model, Zambia’s government is choosing to filter who receives aid and under what conditions. Originally, a government program gave families in a rural west Zambian village 164, 628.31 Zambian Kwacha, or 18 US dollars, every other month for the past five years. The program proved to be successful: families used this additional support to invest in creating multiple business ventures to multiply their capital. The government has therefore decided to scale up the program to increase the population receiving this cash aid. Simultaneously, the government has decided to limit the cash transfer to exclude people such as those who initially received the money in the pilot program: two-parent households, people who are employed, and people who are able-bodied. Instead, Zambia will provide aid only to single-parent households, people with disabilities, seniors, and people who are unable to work. This limitation on providing aid based on who is deemed eligible is what GiveDirectly is challenging.
GiveDirectly’s guaranteed income in Kenya is increasing access for all with the goal of improving health outcomes and building towards financial security. It can be particularly valuable for people with disabilities who often experience job discrimination and barriers to financial self-sufficiency. For them, this monthly influx of cash provides a foundation for independence. People with disabilities often struggle to afford medication and rely on financial support from other family members to sustain themselves. This additional monthly income will help to mitigate the costs of medication and basic necessities for everyone.
Grassroots savings clubs in low-income communities are another asset to consider when measuring the long-term impacts of GiveDirectly’s guaranteed income. Some people do not have access to banks or struggle to save money when it is easily accessible from an electronic savings account. Savings clubs are typically groups of 10-15 community members who collectively pool their resources each month. The total amount is then provided to a different individual from the savings club to look after for a month. This community-based savings account relies on faith in the community members to manage the money for everyone else. Some villagers have noted how critical this social bonding is to allow them to maintain their savings since they know the community is depending on them to effectively manage their budget. Researchers have found in case studies around the world, from Bangladesh to Central/South America and West Africa, that savings club serve as a common element of the economic infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods.
Giving cash directly to children and families, with no strings attached is being shown to improve the quality of life in a number of communities, particularly in boosting economic, health, and education outcomes. As more organizations begin measuring the long-term impacts of unconditional cash transfers and basic incomes, we will continue to gain evidence on whether these are viable solutions to deeply entrenched social issues like global poverty.
More information at:
Ashley Blackwell. “CANADA: Mowat Centre Report Shows Impact of Basic Income on Social Entrepreneurship.” BIEN. 28 July 2017.
GiveDirectly. “Basic Income.” 4 September 2017.
Johannes Haushofer and Jeremy Shapiro. “The short-term impact of unconditional cash transfers to the poor: Experimental evidence from Kenya.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics vol. 131 (4). 1 November 2016.
Nurith Aizenman, “How to Solve Poverty: Why Not Just Give People Money.” NPR. 7 August 2017.
“Cash Aid Could Solve Poverty- But There’s a Catch.” NPR. 9 August 2017.
“How to Buy A Goat When You’re Poor? Join A ‘Merry-Go-Round’.” NPR. 19 August 2017.
Pictured: Gareth Morgan, leader of New Zealand’s The Opportunities Party; Credit to: Henry Cooke, Stuff
New Zealand’s The Opportunities Party (TOP), founded last year by businessman and economist Gareth Morgan, has launched a three-stage policy proposal to implement UBI for families with young children, the elderly and youth ages 18 to 23. This policy proposes youth receive $10,000 per year for the first 5 years in their transition to adulthood.
In mid-July, TOP proposed a UBI policy for youth aged 18 to 23 to support their transition into adulthood. Under the proposal, each youth would receive $10,000 per year, divided into weekly payments of $200, to support themselves during a critical period of self-development. TOP has endorsed a basic income for families with children under the age of 3 and seniors ages 65 and older. This income would be provided with no strings attached; for example, citizens would not be asked to take drug tests, submit salary information, or undergo any bureaucratic application process. TOP’s commitment to eliminate barriers to accessing UBI by youth is inspired by observations of the current system, as party leader Gareth Morgan argued, stating that “targeted welfare payments were needlessly complex, resulting in greater costs and many not claiming the benefits they were entitled to.”
The impetus for TOP’s proposed UBI policy for youth in particular is related to the fact that New Zealand has the highest rate of suicides among young people in the developing world. Additionally, youth ages 18 to 23 experience high unemployment rates. The party hopes a UBI will help alleviate financial stress and provide more comprehensive support to help youth achieve their dreams as they transition to adulthood. The UBI is meant to encourage youth to use this money in anyway they see fit, from entrepreneurship to pursuing higher education and nontraditional careers. As the economy is increasingly uncertain, the expectation is for the UBI to supplement benefits this age group already receives and provide financial support to those who may not qualify for these government benefits. For example, there are currently 20,000 youth in New Zealand who are not in employment, education or training and therefore are not receiving government benefits.
The cost to implement this policy is estimated to be $2.4 billion. The UBI would replace the first $10,000 of $245 million in benefits already received by each youth aged 18 to 23. Rather than cut existing programs for youth, TOP proposes funding the UBI from the National Party’s $2 billion Family Incomes Package, which focuses on helping low-income families with children and steep housing costs get ahead through four main benefits:
- “Increasing the $14,000 income tax threshold to $22,000, and the $48,000 tax threshold to $52,000
- Removing the Independent Earner Tax Credit of up to $10 a week.
- Lifting the Family Tax Credit rates for young children to those of children aged 16 to 18
- Increases Accomodation Supplement rates for a two person household to be $25 and $75 a week, while the maximum rates for larger households will increase between $40 and $80 a week”
The remaining $0.4 billion will come from the nation’s projected budget surplus of $1.6 billion in 2017-2018.
This UBI is anticipated to fill in the gaps in the existing support structure for youth, while also supplementing existing initiatives to support this population. For example, New Zealand’s Labour Party “plans to give everyone 3 years free tertiary education and NZ First wants to write off student loans.” Implementing TOP’s three-stage UBI for youth, seniors and young families in tandem with these additional initiatives has the potential to provide unprecedented support to these populations.
More information at:
Henry Cooke, “Gareth Morgan wants to pay every young person $200 a week with youth UBI,” Stuff, 18 July 2017
Isaac Davison, “The Opportunities Party extends $200 a week basic income to young adults so they can ‘pursue their dreams,’” New Zealand Herald, 18 July 2017
Andreas Illmer, “What’s behind New Zealand’s shocking youth suicide rate?,” BBC News, 15 June 2017
Labour Party, “A fresh approach to education,” August 2017
National Party,”Family Incomes Package- Budget 2017” August 2017
New Zealand First, “Policies: Education,” August 2017
The Opportunities Party, “Youth to Adult UBI,” 17 July 2017
Pictured: Sam Haque, founder of Wise Media, social entrepreneur in Canada. Credit to: Steve Russell, Toronto Star
Mowat Centre Report shows how basic income can be a transformative support network for social entrepreneurs to solve society’s deeply entrenched issues. An online platform could help do this. Of course, HostiServer the best for websites trying to project a strong online presence could be useful. Moreover, the report suggests a thriving social mission ecosystem can be an outcome of basic income that be integrated and measured in ongoing pilots.
Canada is one of many countries leading the world in the new stage of paradigm shift politics by piloting universal basic income in its communities. Anchor institutions have been weighing in on special topics for researchers to consider as basic income pilot projects are ongoing. For example, University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre recently published a report titled, Basic Income Examining the Potential Impact of a Basic Income on Social Entrepreneurs. Authors Michael Urban and Christine Yip highlight the three main pathways basic income may impact social entrepreneurs, including by:
- “Reducing barriers to entry into social entrepreneurship, thereby helping create a more diverse and representative social entrepreneurship community.
- Enabling social entrepreneurs to build their organizations and their own capacities by adding to and improving their skill sets.
- Helping to protect social entrepreneurs against illness and provide the psychological space required for social innovation to occur by reducing individuals’ financial stress and anxiety”
A basic income could help derisk social entrepreneurship “for those whose life circumstances have reduced their ability to absorb the potential downsides of risk-taking.” Poverty as a whole costs Canada between $72 billion and $84 billion annually. A snapshot of experiences of historically marginalized populations in Canada include:
- Indigenous Peoples (including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples) are overrepresented among the population of people experiencing homeless in Canada
- The United Nations has called housing and homelessness a national emergency in Canada
- The cost of socioeconomic disparities in the healthcare system account for 20% of all healthcare spending
- One third of food bank users were children in 2016
- 20% of families of color are experiencing poverty compared to 5% of white families
- All seniors receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement live below the most basic standard of living in Canada calculated at $18,000 per year, whereas seniors receive about $17,000 per year
While precarious employment has increased by 50% in Canada over the past two decades, Mowat Centre posits that universal basic income can empower historically marginalized people to be social entrepreneurs. More importantly, the report suggests empowering this population is particularly important as they can use their lived experience with some of society’s most deeply entrenched social issues to recommend new models of living that are more sustainable and equitable for future generations.
Due to these new policy and economic structures supported by social entrepreneurs, this would lead to a paradigm shift in social interactions that would introduce new ways of thinking and co-existing:
“A basic income could help to shift society from a system where an individual’s worth is determined by the amount of money they earn to one where individuals earn esteem through the ways they choose to use the money to which everyone is automatically entitled. When conceived in this basic way, a basic income represents a validation of every individual’s inherent worth and, by extension, a validation of and a support for their freedom to choose the life path that they see as most appropriate for them and the contributions they make to society in doing so.”
By helping to potentially further support role models and community leaders making positive impacts in their neighborhoods, a basic income is able to make social entrepreneurship a more appealing and viable career path. This may attract a critical mass of people to integrating principles of social entrepreneurship into their ways of living, beyond their career. A basic income can help sustain social entrepreneurship by providing financial protection from unexpected losses in income. Another positive affect is bolstering the holistic health and wellness of a social entrepreneur by reducing stress and anxiety created by financial insecurity and instability. Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to chronic illnesses such as depression, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes among others. Particularly among historically marginalized populations, these chronic illnesses are disproportionately prevalent, which adds to how, under the current structure, they experience increased barriers to social entrepreneurship. By alleviating these stressors, a basic income could be a pathway in healing historical trauma and inequities between classes of people.
However, the Mowat Centre also mentioned a list of outcomes from a basic income that social entrepreneurs and ongoing pilots should consider to create the necessary supports to ensure this social ecosystem can thrive:
- Allocate additional resources from basic income to expanding sufficient support system for social entrepreneurship to ensure accessibility to career pathway and mitigate amount of well-intentioned, but ultimately unproductive business models and innovations
- Consider incentives for cross-sector partnerships in social entrepreneurship to prepare the broader political, economic, and social infrastructure in communities to absorb the potential increase in effort by empowered social entrepreneurs to fulfill their missions
- Ensure sufficient accountability mechanisms through adoption of universal impact measurement practice, training/coaching, and peer-mentoring for social entrepreneurs to achieve quality and standard metrics that are customized to their business model to support the monitoring of outcomes and social impact
- Consider social entrepreneur wage and labor policies to ensure equity between employer, employees and volunteers
- Consider ongoing measurement of social impact in the field based on lived experience of historically marginalized populations to ensure that basic income is not assumed to have solved social issues like poverty or barriers to social mobility, but rather there are metrics to offer ongoing evaluation of status of social issues to inform innovations
More information at:
American Psychological Association, “Understanding chronic stress,” July 2017
Canada Without Poverty, “Just the Facts,” July 2017
Laurie Monsebraaten, “Basic income hailed as way to give people chance to chase their dreams,” Toronto Star, 25th May 2017
Michael Crawford Urban and Christine Yip, “Basic Impact: Examining the Potential Impact of a Basic Income on Social Entrepreneurs,” Mowat Centre, May 2017
Representative Chris Lee. Credit to: Office of Representative Chris Lee
In the face of growing economic inequality and projections of increased disparities in the coming decades, Hawai‘i has passed a resolution to establish a Basic Economic Security Working Group. The working group will investigate the impact job automation will have on the residents of Hawai‘i and its social safety net programs, and investigate the feasibility of universal basic income models and other efforts to identify the best pathway forward to ensure residents are able to thrive, if you’re wanting to be a thriving Hawaii resident, you have the option to live on the big island of Hawaii if you so wished to.
Hawai‘i has the highest cost of living in the United States. It is thus no surprise that the rate of economic inequality in Hawai’i has been steadily rising for decades, and that the top 1% income shares have doubled since 1978. In response, House Concurrent Resolution 89 was passed in May 2017 to establish a Basic Economic Security Working Group, focusing on five main tasks:
- “Assess Hawai‘i’s job market exposure to automation technologies, globalization and disruptive innovation;
- Assess Hawai‘i’s existing spending on social safety net programs and other relevant expenditures, as well as expected spending on those programs in light of anticipated automation technologies, globalization, disruptive innovation, and job losses;
- Identify and analyze options to ensure economic security, including a partial universal basic income, full universal basic income and other mechanisms;
- Monitor studies, trials, and efforts in Hawai‘i and other jurisdictions relevant to the basic economic security working group; and
- Seek out partnerships to publish or fund relevant trials or studies to evaluate options”
In an interview with Basic Income News, the sponsor of the resolution, Representative Chris Lee, frames the working group in light of the broader political context of the United States: “Politics in D.C. necessitate our evaluation of these future options because current policies are only making things harder for middle and lower class families. We must ask ourselves, what can we do now to head down the right path to ensure a viable economy and sustainable ways of living?”
Representative Lee went on to claim that, when future socio-economic landscapes are viewed through the lens of innovation and automation, some form of a basic income “seems inevitable”. The representative states that it is imperative to “acknowledge there are real issues both in our economy and society that current policy is not equipped to deal with” and that our economic and social infrastructure must evolve to match the speed of technological innovations.
Given that, in 2016, the service industry composed the majority of the state’s total GDP, automation may be one of the greatest challenges to its economic security in the near future. This threat is even more pressing given projections of the United States losing almost half of all jobs to automation in the next two decades. Hawai‘i’s resolution is proactive in addressing the specters of job loss and increased reliance on social safety net programs by mapping the potential future impact and mitigating negative effects with evidence-based strategies to inform legislation.
The majority of households in Hawai‘i are families with children. Representative Lee is mindful of how their lives can be shaped by economic insecurity and is working to create pathways forward to ensure people can thrive.
More information at:
Bureau of Economic Analysis, Hawaii, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2016
Oliver Garret, “How The Coming Wave of Job Automation Will Affect You and the U.S.”, Forbes, February 23rd 2017
Hawaii State Legislature, Representative Chris Lee, 2017
House of Representatives Twenty-Ninth Legislature, HCR 89, Open States, May 2017
InfoPlease, Demographic Statistics Hawaii, June 2017
Emmie Martin, “These are the 15 Most Expensive US States”, CNBC Money, May 15th 2017
Carlyn Tani,”Hawaii’s Growing Inequality“, Hawaii Business, March 2015
Ioana Marinescu. Credit to: Harris School of Pubic Policy.
The Roosevelt Institute finds positive overall quality of life outcomes from giving cash directly to individuals. By studying three programs that share different components of a universal basic income, University of Chicago Professor Ioana Marinescu is able to shed light on empirical evidence showing improvements in consumption, health, education, among other areas of life that runs counter to fears about what may happen when people are given cash directly.
What would happen if cash was provided directly to people with no strings attached? The Roosevelt Institute recently published a report authored by University of Chicago Professor Ioana Marinescu that explores this question. The report is published as part of the Roosevelt Institute’s Reimagine the Rules effort to reorient policy at all levels toward a new economic and political system that is good for all. Marinescu reviews the empirical results from unconditional cash transfer programs that share different components of a universal basic income (UBI).
The programs evaluated include the U.S. and Canadian negative income tax experiments, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, and the Eastern Band of Cherokees’ casino dividend program, in addition to other supplemental studies. In the 1970s, the U.S. and Canadian negative income tax experiments were developed where a random group of people in six U.S. states were provided enough money to live on through tax credits equivalent to the poverty line. Since 1982, every Alaskan resident has received an annual dividend between $800 and $2,000 as a share of invested oil profits from state lands through the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. The Eastern Band of Cherokees’ casino dividend program began in 1996 and provides a portion of the profits from a casino on the reservation to all tribal members through annual dividends of $4,000 per person per year.
Across these programs, the report analyzes behavioral effects of providing unconditional cash transfers to individuals in categories including labor participation, consumption, education, health, among other social factors. One concern about providing cash directly to people is that it would decrease the amount of people working and contributing to society. Marinescu’s research challenges these concerns with findings that show significant improvements in the overall quality of life of people who receive unconditional cash transfers. For example, the Alaska Permanent Fund provides universal payments directly to residents and shows no effect on employment and an increase in part-time work. People have been shown to increase their buying and spending when receiving unconditional cash transfers. In terms of education, “school attendance, grades, and test scores” improve for children and educational attainment is increased. Even for health outcomes, there was almost a 10 percent decrease in hospitalizations and improved mental health with a lower likelihood of experiencing alcohol or cannabis use or dependence in the case of the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s casino dividend program.
These findings are a critical step in providing a picture of what future possible outcomes and considerations should be taken into account as the debate on universal basic income continues to gain international prominence. By countering fears and assumptions about how providing unconditional cash directly to people may affect people’s contributions to society with empirical evidence on outcomes, the narrative about universal basic income can be repositioned to be grounded in facts rather than fears.
More information at:
Kate McFarland, “Survey of 11,000 Europeans finds 68% would vote for basic income,” Basic Income News, May 1st 2017
Kate McFarland, “Alaska, US: Judge Upholds Governor’s Veto of Part of State’s Social Dividend,” Basic Income News, December 3rd 2016
Ioana Marinescu, “No Strings Attached: The Behavioral Effects of U.S. Unconditional CASH Transfer Programs,” Roosevelt Institute, May 16th 2017